August 24, 2017
As Donald Trump increasingly shows a disconnect with European values and norms, giving new examples so frequently as to list them would be immediately to be outdated, it seems evident that Europe should look to championing its values and ideals in the world. Europe should no-longer accept being a junior partner in the liberal world order. Instead, it should insist that America’s first amongst equals relationship be replaced with a relationship that places Europe on level with the US.
The constant vulgarity and audacity of the Trump White House has already brought Europeans together. The EU’s popularity is the highest in recent memory, which acts as a vehicle for the hopes of Europeans for a world that looks to solutions to problems that threaten us all, like climate change– problems that US president, Donald Trump, neither recognises nor has the capacity to address. He is even going so far to revive old problems the rest of the world left in the cold war by seeming to try to provoke the only man crazy enough to use nuclear weapons to do just that.
However, the EU, in its present format has not the ability to address these concerns either. EU leaders recognise this with their actions. Despite the near constant expectations of naysayers for the EU to disintegrate immediately, the EU persists and expands in this counter-populistic surge in the liberal world. The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy advocates a financial union with a European finance minister. This week, the French President and Austrian Chancellor seem to agree, calling for radical reforms to the EU. The defence union is a direct response to the instability of trust in American willingness to support its allies. The federalists are out in force. “Who will be the Alexander Hamilton of Europe?” they cry. These proposals are a clear indication that Europe, at present, is not structured to handle the American abdication of the liberal throne.
Common wisdom would tell us that conservative expansion is preferable in political expansion. However, once in awhile, bold action seizes the day. Therefore, I think it is time to consider that Europe, to secure a world we all want to live in, should take real and concrete action to institute a European Federation.
Now to the messy part: there is a lot of questions that arise from suggesting that. First of all, who should be members of a European Federation. Ideally, we would say all members of the EU should unite under a single European banner. I loathe to divide Europe into the “New Europe” and “Old Europe” that Austrian Chancellor, Christian Kern, wishes to do away with. However, realistically, with opposition to Europe in the halls of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, we can not expect their assent to federalisation. Furthermore, the Austrians themselves have historically been fiercely independent, likely because their history with annexation. The Croatians are probably too new to the fraternity to consider the proposal as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Greek people have some misgivings about the European project at present. I suspect that such a federation would start with Western Europe: likely the Benelux, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal and Italy, being mostly countries that began the European project together, would be countries that would be the first countries to take the first steps to federalisation. I don’t want to paint all of Eastern Europe, the “new” Europe, with the same brush. My gut tells me that the Baltic states and Slovenia would be entirely more supportive of federalisation than their Visgrad Group counterparts. I’m not sure where Finland or Romania would land at all. In addition, I could see the Greeks swing in favour of it as well.
A European Federation within the European Union should bind together to cooperate on every topic above the regional. It would be a united force in the EU, but it should be very clear that wouldn’t bully the non-federal members into supporting its interests. A European Federation within the EU would need to consciously and graciously interact with non-federal EU members. It would need to be mindful of its size and strength and continue to offer a relationship that works for even the Eurosceptical members. It would also need to make it clear that the door for more members of the federation be extended to all of the countries of Europe. However, it must not pressure remaining states to join, as this act of using political force to compel smaller nations to give up their sovereignty will backfire and entrench anti-EU sentiments. Everything must happen in its own time.
Another foundational question to settle is the capital of the European Federation. Many of the European capitals could make strong cases on their own behalf. Paris being the original centre of European integration before their withdrawal from NATO, comes quickly to mind. It would be geographically central to a new Federation composed of Western European states. Berlin does as well, sharing with Paris the status of being a centre of power for one of strongest and most influential European states. It would also be more central to the Federation if countries like Poland came around to the idea of Federalisation. Brussels, due to the status of de facto capital of the EU is another obvious choice. Rome, for its historical significance, could make a case. Athens, as the home of democracy, would be another powerful symbol to the world of the intention of the new European federation. It would also, likely provide a strong economic boost to the Greek economy, which may help right that ship and safeguard it against future shocks.
As the Economist reminds us, the establishing of a new capital cause a city to see an influx of both people and money. This is why I think Berlin or Amsterdam would be the best choice for a new centre of power. Both the Netherlands and (post-war) Germany have a culture of tolerance and liberal individualism. In addition, both cities have their own culture complimentary to seeing a large influx of “foreigners” move in. However, the German nationalist movements are weaker, therefore, I think Berlin is a better choice. Even if Amsterdam would be resistant to the growing pains of being a new capital, the rest of the Netherlands might prove less so.
What might government of a European Federation look like? I do not think another layer of government between the EU and above the national is a good idea. That would make, in the early days, these states have five layers of government. We see the stress in the system from four. Since almost every state mentioned already implements some degree of federalism with regional parliaments: Luxembourg aside. Therefore, it seems expedient that the national, or existing federal levels, be set aside to create a Bundestag, with the members sending their representatives to the new federal parliament rather than their old national parliaments. There might be room for a sort of “house of lords”, that gives national representation. It would be a shame to dethrone monarchs from the most pacific and progressive nations the Earth has ever witnessed. Even though regions may align by their former countries, that might not be the case. For example, Alsace-Lorraine might choose political alignment with Hessen or Swabia instead of with Normandy (or Brandenburg). Cultures divided only by a border might align better than with cultures they were only united with by a border.
There is little justified worry about such a federation crushing local cultures in favour of a Pan-European culture. Such a culture does not and will likely never exist. The appeal of Europe, to me, is the appeal of its slogan: united in diversity. Pan-European culture is exactly that, an acceptance and celebration of the diversity of European cultures. To a Pan-European, we have no desire to see the Greeks become Germans. The very idea of creating a European Federation, instead of using the language European Republic, is enshrining that diversity as a foundational value of this new project.
This is a very simple and basic overview of the process of federalisation. There would be a mountain of details to work out and policies to harmonise. It would be a colossal undertaking, but the end result would be a Europe that could stand toe-to-toe with any other country in the world, secure in both its physical and economic well being. Europe has been reluctant to lead the world for too long.
The world as we know it cannot continue to exist without hands to hold the torch of liberty high. If America is in derelict to its duty to the human race, then Europa needs to take up the torch and light the way for all mankind.
A 1920 proposal for a European Federation.
“National states are totally broken, but if they would unite under one roof, in which racial hatred will not prevail as before, and the love of men to win, everyone will live happily.”